Real Madrid manager Zinedine Zidane has 14 players in mind for his starting XI against Barcelona for the all-important El Clasico clash at Camp Nou later this weekend. According to reports from AS, only two areas where the French coach has doubts is in central defence and midfield.
Zidane is still undecided between Pepe and Raphael Varane after both players complained about niggling injuries earlier this week. Pepe returned to the first team last Saturday after recovering from a Grade II hamstring tear while Varane suffered a knock to his right knee, which he was operated on back in 2013.
Given Pepe and Sergio Ramos’ strong partnership, we may see Zidane go ahead with the two in central defence for the big game against Barcelona later this weekend. Marcelo and Dani Carvajal are assured starters for Real Madrid after owning the full-back positions with commanding displays this season.
Other players fighting for a spot in the starting XI are Casemiro, Matteo Kovacic and Isco. Only two of these 3 stars will get to play this weekend and partner Luka Modric in Real Madrid’s midfield for the El Clasico.
Varane and Casemiro played the whole 90 minutes for Madrid in their thumping 6-1 win over Cultural Leonesa in the Copa del Rey on Wednesday, while Isco and Carvajal played 45 minutes.
Isco and Kovacic look certain to start
Isco was only given a nine-minute run-out in Real Madrid’s 2-1 win over Sporting Gijon, and the Spaniard looks certain to start for Zidane against Barcelona. Meanwhile, Kovacic has been one of Real’s star performers this season playing with high tempo and making a destructive impact from the midfield.
Modric will be the main man for Real Madrid if they are to get a positive result against their fierce rivals. With midfield sorted, Zidane has little to worry about Real Madrid’s forward line which is certain to feature Cristiano Ronaldo and Karim Benzema.
With the unfortunate injury to Gareth Bale, Lucas Vazquez is the early favourite to slot in the right wing role and provide width and support to Ronaldo and Benzema as they go against an under-confident Barcelona side.
Who has the early advantage going into El Clasico?
As things stand, Real Madrid are 6 points ahead of Barcelona in the La Liga title race and a quick look at the two teams’ recent form, it would be safe to say that Real Madrid are the favorites heading into weekend’s El Clasico.
However, given Gareth Bale’s absence, Barcelona could fancy their chances with a fit again Lionel Messi and Luis Suarez returning to their starting XI.
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